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Newly-minted lawyer overcomes adversity

Wade Brown, 36, called to the bar last Friday but that's just one of his many accomplishments

Look out, legal eagles... there’s a new brand of justice in town. Wade Brown will see to that.

The 36-year-old was called to the bar last Friday, pledging to act truly and with integrity, as he is directed. He says that he will conduct all causes and matters faithfully and to the best of his ability, neither seeking to destroy anyone's property nor promoting suits upon frivolous pretenses. Most poetically perhaps, he says that he will not pervert the law to favour or prejudice anyone.

This brings the phrase ‘justice is blind’ to mind, which probably gives him a great legal advantage. After all, he’s totally blind himself but the inability to see is far from being an impediment in his chosen profession.

“There are lots of feelings that go along with having a disability or gaining a disability. ‘What value am I providing? Am I just being a drain on other people, or is there something I can give back?’ You second-guess yourself a lot. But then just over time as I was in high school and university, you just start to … be able to see what kinds of things people around you need in their lives,” he explained.

His success in law is far from being a surprise to many. Brown is no stranger to a life of accomplishment, having previously gotten a Science degree in psychology a decade ago. That was after being chosen as a recipient of the Wayne and Walter Gretzky Scholarship for “high academic standing and superior intellectual ability” (according to the scholarship’s website) after he graduated with Honours in the International Baccalaureate Program from Bellerose High School in 2001.

In the years since then, he has also become an English literacy tutor, a sublime singer with Kokopelli and Òran (check out his beautiful tenor voice during a performance of Russian Picnic and an online show host with Accessibility Media Inc. (or AMI), the world's first television network to broadcast all programs with open format described video for Canadians who are blind or partially sighted. His show was called ‘Blind Justice’ naturally, and it is also linked to this story online.

“All of us here at AMI are incredibly proud of Wade and can’t say enough about him and his commitment and determination,” said Michelle Dudas, senior producer for AMI-tv. “First and foremost, Wade is one of the kindest, most genuine people I’ve ever met. He’s approachable and accepting of all others, hilariously funny, and simply brilliant academically and socially. His professionalism is unparalleled and I know he will be hugely successful as he enters this next phase of his career.”

His personality and voice are well-suited for the public arena but don’t forget that he used to direct his lungpower toward being the tuba player for the St. Albert Community Band for six years. While in law school, he was also reportedly an enthusiastic participant in the U of A Law School’s annual original musical production, which was simply called the Law Show.

All of this comes from a man who was severely visually impaired since birth and totally blind since Grade 9. He never let it slow him down, however. He doesn’t let anything slow him down, as you’ll soon learn.

“When I was 19, I really, really, really wanted work experience. You feel like you want to work because that's what everyone's doing. I started applying at restaurants to be a dishwasher and the first dozen places I applied to, it was just ‘this really doesn't seem like your kind of job,’ ‘this might not be so safe for you,’ ‘I don't know how you'd adapt to this kind of environment.’ Eventually on the 10th or 12th try when I finally got a restaurant manager who was like, ‘You know what? I really liked your honesty. I really like your persistence. We'll try you out.’ I ended up working there for a year washing dishes.”

Brown admits that he does have a “rose tinted view of the world” but he’s not a fool. His disability does force some complications to arise, such as extra paperwork for services or other things that will help accommodate him. Being blind doesn’t mean that you’re invisible; you can’t hide from the world if you want to do something with your life.

“You just constantly have to advocate and make sure that your needs are being met because it's just very easy to screw up and be like, ‘yeah, this isn't for me,’ and then just let it go. But it's all gone very well. I've learned tons just about … navigating administration and bureaucracy and stuff.”

With all of that on his resumé, maybe his life experience lends toward making him a better lawyer, one who becomes savvy at dealing with the system.

Some might call him unstoppable for how nothing gets him down. Others would say he’s irrepressible for his wonderful and infectious optimism. “I’m always very positive. Positive attitude is the most important thing,” he says.

That has really been the key to Brown's success, especially after a medical setback that happened right after he graduated in 2016. Inexplicably, his aorta burst open causing his spine to suffer a lack of oxygen. He’s now completely paralyzed from the chest down. A wheelchair is now his primary mode of transportation and he needs to keep a close eye on his energy level.

“Aside from those things, my life actually hasn't changed very much since I was injured. I still have the same friends, the same job, the same hobbies and interests, I still enjoy the same leisure activities … all these things. I've just had to have some additional help from Alberta Health Services and my family and people have had to step up around me but I think I've really gotten to the point where I'm enjoying my life more or less as I used to,” he said with a matter of fact attitude and an unceasing smile on his face.

Wade Brown’s motto must be something like, “Take things as they come and always roll with them.” His optimism, his enthusiasm, and his winning personality have carried him to success after success, and will likely continue to do so as he enters this new phase of his life where he hopes to focus on immigration law with Masuch Law, the same firm where he articled.

On the Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta’s Twitter account, Justice Douglas R. Mah is quoted for commending Brown after swearing him in, and told the new lawyer's family, friends and colleagues he is a “role model for all of us.” That’s easy to see.


What's your favourite book?

The Wheel of Time. It's a 14-book epic fantasy series (15 if you count the prequel) by Robert Jordan. I think I've read the whole series three times in audio format.

What is your favourite movie?

For number of times watched, I think it's Star Trek 7: Generations. I watch a few movies here and there, but these days, I probably only watch a handful per year, but when I was younger and ST 7 came out, I remember watching it again and again, and even now, the score from the film still makes me smile. I'm a big trekkie in general though, so I've seen all of the series and movies at least a few times each.

(Note: Wade says that he listens to movies or has friends describe the action, while movie theatres and Netflix also have the option to use 'Descriptive Audio' for the same purpose.)

When you were still a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was really little, like four to six, I wanted to be a police officer like my dad. After that, I dreamed of having a comic book/convenience store. That's especially odd because I don't really like comic books. I was really into collecting hockey cards in elementary school though, so that's probably it. After that, like around 10, I wanted to be an actor … on Star Trek!

Do you have any superstitions?

No superstitions, but several mantras. Whatever happens is the best thing that could possibly happen to/for me, even if I don't recognize it yet, because I'm either winning, or learning. The fight isn't over until you win.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?

I'm really not sure about that one. In some ways, I think it's that I've managed to integrate so well into mainstream life. I have had so many awesome and supportive friends and family. I'm not sure how much of that is due to my own efforts and personality, how much to each person's individual personality and life experience etc., and how much is due to society changing to become more inclusive and equal though. I do have a lot of awesome people around me though, and that has made life so much better than it could have been.

Also law school is nothing to sneeze at. And travelling with my choir to Namibia, South Africa, and Germany. Those trips really changed my life and stay with me wherever I go.

Beatles or the Rollings Stones, or?

Beatles!!! When I was in elementary school, Grade 3 I think in British Columbia, I think my music teacher had a real passion for the oldies. I remember that year, I think it was at the year-end concert in June, the Grade 3 students did an entire set of Beatles tunes: She Loves You Yeah Yeah Yeah, I Want to Hold Your Hand, Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da Life Goes On … as I recall. Because of that music teacher, and also because my parents love the oldies so much, a lot of those pieces have stuck with me through my life as well. It's funny what we carry along with us.

With files provided by Scott Hayes